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Celebrating the Life of Forrest J. Gerard
By David M. Gipp and Tex G. "Red Tipped Arrow" Hall
3 January 2014

Forrest Gerard was a wonderful Itancan (Leader) and the nation’s first Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.

      We knew him as a great friend and advocate for Indian Country. He served the Nation with distinction and honor in the armed services in World War II and later in his professional work. He is a patriot on all fronts.

Forrest Joseph Gerard

      Forrest was a groundbreaker, whose pathways benefited all of Indian Country, making new opportunities possible even today.

      Among his many accomplishments, he was instrumental in making the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act a reality. He was a key U. S. Senate staff member who brought us together to pass the Tribally Controlled Community College (and University) Assistance Act of 1978.

      His passing is a most difficult time for his wife Kay and his children, relatives and many friends.

      On behalf of the United Tribes of North Dakota and the United Tribes Technical College Board of Directors (comprised of the North Dakota Tribal chairs and council members) we send condolences and prayers to the family and sincere thanks for the life of Forrest Joseph Gerard.

      We will miss his good stories and warm, encouraging friendship and that calm, reassuring voice that always bound us together.

      Tunkasila (Grandfather) walks with him as he makes his journey to the Spirit World. His Spirit is with Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit). We offer our thanks and continuing prayers for this great Itancan. Our students, staff and faculty and all good friends join together in the same way.

– David M. Gipp is the President of United Tribes Technical College; Tex G. Hall is Chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation and Chairman of the United Tribes of North Dakota Board of Directors.


January 15, 1925 - December 28, 2013

      Forrest Joseph Gerard passed away December 28, 2013 in Albuquerque, NM. He was born January 15, 1925 on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. He is a citizen of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana.

      Gerard is survived by Kay, his wife of 65 years; daughters Patricia, Margaret, Rebecca and Jennifer; and son Stanley. He was preceded in death by his parents, Frederick Gerard Sr. and Rose Douglas Gerard; and siblings Frederick Jr., Charles, Mary, Hazel, Lyda, James, and John.

      Gerard is highly respected and revered by many throughout Indian Country and federal government circles because of the leadership role he played in empowering tribal communities through the transformation of federal Indian policy. In fact, it is not possible to have an informed conversation regarding Native American issues such as self-governance, self-determination, health and education without his name being prominently mentioned.

      After graduation from Browning High School in 1943, Gerard enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp and served with the 15th Air Force in southern Italy where he flew 35 missions as an engineer and gunner. He returned from military service in 1945 and earned a bachelor's degree in 1949 from what is now the University of Montana.

      Gerard entered public service with the Montana State Department of Public Instruction and advanced into positions with the Montana Tuberculosis Association and Wyoming Tuberculosis and Health Association.

      In 1957 he moved on to Washington, D.C. where he became the tribal affairs officer for the newly created Indian Health Service. After being selected for a coveted Congressional Fellowship in 1966, he moved to Capitol Hill and worked on Indian issues first with Representative Al Ullman from Oregon and later for Senator George McGovern from South Dakota. He then served as the legislative liaison officer in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and as Director of the Office for Indian Progress at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

      In 1971 Gerard became a professional staff member on the U.S. Senate's Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. It was in this post that Gerard drafted some of the most significant pieces of legislation in the 20th century, including the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Indian Financing Act and the Indian Health Care and Improvement Act.

      In 1976 he established a lobbying firm to represent tribal interests in the federal arena. In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated him to be the first Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. He was confirmed by the Senate and served until 1980 when he returned to private lobbying practice in Washington, D.C.

      Many prominent professional people proudly refer to Gerard as their mentor and credit him with having been a major influence in their lives. Gerard was the subject of the book, The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars that chronicled his contributions to history.

      In 1992 he and Kay moved to Albuquerque, and enjoyed their time with family and friends, cultural activities, traveling, and all the beauty of New Mexico.

      A Celebration of Life was held January 3, 2014 at FRENCH Wyoming, Albuquerque, NM.

      Memorials may be made to United Tribes Technical College at https://my.uttc.edu/ICS/Alumni/ or the National Museum of the American Indian at www.nmaistore.si.edu.


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